Thursday, January 28, 2016

Child abuse or good parenting?

Two hours later and I'm still not sure that I did the right thing.

My walk to the bus stop on cold mornings takes me past three very large affordable housing projects. I know in my heart that they are full of people who are struggling to make ends meet and don't have the best lives.  I know that there are also some people who live there who aren't the finest elements in our society.  In the 11 months living here, I've seen the fights, smelled the pot smoking, and noticed the groups of men hanging out in front of the building night and day.

This morning, I was running late.  I had a meeting that ran long and got home after 11:00, so I chose to sleep in a little.  At around 8:00 I was walking quickly to the bus to see if I could still make it to the office by 9:00 a.m. (I made it in the door at exactly 9).  Passing this complex, I heard a young boy screaming at the top of his longs.  He was about 14 years old.  I noticed him as the man I presume was his father opened the car door to grab him out.  The father was clearly mad.  The screams of the son became louder as the door was opened.  The father grabbed his son roughly out of the car and dragged him, screaming, into one of the ground floor doors.  The son tried to resist and the father roughly pushed him inside.

This is the point where I am confused.  I stopped, as did many people.  Should I intervene?  Should I say something?  Should I just keep walking?  Is that boy about to get beaten up by his father?  Should I call the police?

My father loves me.  He's a great man.  Sometimes I made him so angry that he lost his temper.  He would yell, he would sometimes slam doors and stomp around the house.  Sometimes, he would grab me and yell at me and shove me into the house to yell some more.  I don't remember him ever beating me though.  I turned out ok.  I surely don't want his temper.  When I lose my temper, I try to walk away and calm down before I yell at anyone or do anything like that.  Still, I understand it.  I know that teenagers sometimes do things that make their parents super angry.  Sometimes those parents have already tried every other method of getting through to their kid other than scaring them.

I don't advocate child abuse.  I don't think it's right to beat your children up.  When a teenager, though, does something that is going to hurt them, their friends, or their family in the short or long term, they need to know it's serious.  That might mean some yelling.  It might mean scaring the shit out of the kid to get the point across that things are serious.

It's 10:00 a.m.  I'm still worried about that kid.  I don't know what happened after he went inside.  I didn't call the cops.  I didn't walk over and try to talk to the violent screaming father.  I just said a few prayers and hoped that it would be ok.  I still hope that the child's father was just trying to get a point across and let the child know that whatever he did wrong was really serious.

What's the right thing to do here?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Special Olympics Polar Plunge

NYC got hit by a ton of snow today.  It's still coming down.  My automatic response is to do some baking.  I've already completed a spinach cheddar bacon quiche and two dozen home-made meatballs (first time making them and they smell great).  

As I walked out in the cold and snow to get an onion for my recipe, I was reminded of Rochester.  Rochester doesn't let snow affect them very much.  I go up there each year where I still have a house.  I try to make it there a few times of year, but for the past eight years I haven't missed the annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge.  In the past eight years, I've donned some crazy costume and jumped into the frozen waters of Lake Ontario with over 1000 other crazy people.  Fortunately, my friends and family have helped me raise more than $9,000 over the years.  

Stepping out in the cold, I was reminded of the Rochester cold and snow.  I'm actually looking forward to it.  

The Twin Thing

I have an identical twin named John.  He's my best friend in the entire world.  We are almost 40 years old.  As we get older, the connection we had as children is coming back.  I find that I need him more than I did just after college.

We were born in mid-December.  My father was out bowling and the neighbor took my mom to the hospital.  My mom, and the doctor, had no idea she was having twins until the nurse in the delivery room called the doctor back saying she thought mom had a second baby still inside.

She named me Eric, a name she loved.  She named John after my paternal Grandfather.  I like to think that we are both named after him though.  You see, his name was Frederick John.  Notice the name Eric tucked into the Frederick?

I was born first and he arrived into the world 10 minutes later.  That makes me his older brother.  My mom tells stories about our childhood.  Even before we could crawl, we would always be together.  She would put us in the crib separated and somehow we'd make our way to be next to each other.  When one was upset, the other one could calm him.  We had our own language (twinspeak) that we used well into our first grade.  We were inseparable for the most part.  At school, we were forced into different classrooms.  Everything else we did together.  In high school, we did branch out a little.  He played soccer, I failed at my attempt at basketball.  He studied art and I focused on band.  Still, we are so similar that we did many things together including competing with the speech and debate club which became one of our passions.

When we were looking at colleges, we decided to go to separate places.  We had always been "the twins" and felt that we needed to develop our separate identities.  It was a bit of a shock for us when we finally did go.  We emailed (email was new then and new to us) and spoke on the phone almost every night.  I remember how stressed it made me when I had to come up with $123 for my first phone bill in college.  

College had us grow apart.  We developed our own friends instead of sharing friends.  He became more involved with church and his swim team while I spent much of my time with my fraternity and as a tour guide.  He became more politically and religiously conservative and I became more liberal on both fronts.  I came out of the closet and started dating men and he became more focused on finding a wife.  We did, though, both change our majors to Spanish without talking to each other.  We called our mom at the same time (call waiting was new then too).  We still frequently do that.  We beep in on each other talking to her any time of day or night.  

We were still close, but having no car and being hundreds of miles apart made it hard to stay close.  My friends were mostly music, theater, and we hung out all the time in the coffee shop on campus.  His friends were focused on medical school.  

Fast forward to now.  We've both had our ups and downs with work and with life.  For the first few years after college, we were not as close.  He settled near his college and I started my career in CT followed by Rochester.  I would venture that we really didn't start to get close again until he married at 30.  

We were never far apart and always talked a lot, but only really needed each other then.  As we talk about it now, we both wish we were more honest with each other about the struggles we had in our 30s with depression, self esteem, and other challenges. 

I bring this up because as twins, we have a unique connection.  Singletons, or non-twins, can't really understand.  We don't even need to speak to each other, but just hear each other breath to even each out other.  Although we don't have direct ESP, when he is very upset, I get upset for no reason even thousands of miles away.  When he is stressed, I get stressed.  When he is in pain, I can sense that something is wrong.  He's had some turmoil recently and I knew it from talking to him.  What I didn't realize until this week was that because of his turmoil, I've been sleeping 12 hours a night.  I'm in great health, but somehow my body was trying to send him energy.  

Yesterday, during my good day, he was having a good day too.  I think that some of my energy was coming all the way from him in Philadelphia.  

Even at 39, having lived hundreds of miles apart (he's near Philly and I'm in Brooklyn), we still complete each others sentences and when we visit each other will have packed almost identical outfits to wear.  

I'll never know what it is like not to be a twin.  I'm grateful for him through the good and the bad.  We don't agree politically on many things, but we still love each other.  

John will be my adventure buddy to try new things and see the world when we can make it happen.  He'll hopefully be my best man in my upcoming wedding.  Regardless of what we do together, even if it is just listening to each other breath on the phone while we do dishes or cook in our separate cities, my twin will make me feel whole.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Humanity on the subway

This morning, I had the good fortunate to catch up with a dear friend from Oneonta who was in the city for work.  we decided to meet near her hotel at a coffee shop.  I picked an indy place off of yelp that had great reviews.  I haven't taken a G Train in the morning on a work day ever.  In fact, the only other time I remember taking this train was when I went to get a massage once that I purchased on living social.  

This was the route: 

Walking to the G Train in the cold, I spotted an old dirty penny on the side walk.  I took that as my first sign of a good day.  Then walking into the subway station, I found a new shiny penny by the turnstile.  Walking down the steps to the train platform, there was a nickel on the stairs.  I thanked God each time I picked one up.  Good things were going to happen today.

The train pulled up and was jam-packed with people.  I squeezed my way into the subway car.  I'm amazed that so many people make that commute like that every day.  I've forgotten what it was like.   I used to do that when I worked on Wall Street.  Most of these people clearly didn't need to get to work by 9:00, since I got on the train at 8:45.  I was so excited to see my friend and full of amazing positive energy.  I felt like I was glowing and about to burst out in song (The Sun'll Come out Tomorrow).  I had a huge smile on my face.  As I looked around me today, I decided that I was going to be a superhero.  Every person in that packed subway car was scowling with anger and stress.  I was going to keep on my biggest smile and just blind them with it's brightness.  Try as hard as I could, I couldn't get a smile from anyone else.  The girls looked at me as if I was a creepy old man hitting on them.  Some of the guys reacted the same way.  Most people just harumphed and looked at their shoes.  I didn't let it dampen my spirit though.

The next car wasn't much better.  It was full of people not happy about the impending work day.

There were hundreds of people getting off the subway and making their way toward the E/M trains at Court Square.  Then we all crowded onto the narrow platform to wait for the train.  

Fortunately, that train arrived almost empty, so we all fit.  

The brisk walk to the coffee shop was worth it.  Ground Central did not disappoint.  Some yummy chai lattes and a breakfast croissant did the trick.  The staff looked at me funny when I told them my name was Spartacus.  It's my go to name since Eric seems generic.  I think I need to go back to my days of using Harry Potter characters or saying I am Pocahontas.  

I had a really fun "coffee" (allergic to the toxic stuff, so I always have tea or hot cocoa, but people always say they are going for coffee) with some laughter and hugs with my friend.  I then headed uptown to do some exploring and for an appointment.  On the train ride up, I was asked for money by a homeless man.  As a matter of principle I don't give money to panhandlers, but did give him two granola bars from my bag.  He said he couldn't eat them, but would find someone who would and stuffed them into his pocket.

Getting out of the subway uptown, I found a dime and two pennies on the sidewalk.  The blessings continued.  At the coffee shop, I found a dime in the mens room.  I had a really good appointment and got some good news from it.  On the way back to the subway, I kept smiling and still feeling that energy coursing through me.

On the ride back, I laughed out loud as I almost fell when the subway stopped suddenly.  I kept my smile on and this time other people smiled back.  When I got off to switch trains, one man was running to catch another train and dropped his glasses.  He didn't notice, but four or five people made sure he knew and got them for him.  For those of you unaware, glasses cost hundreds of dollars to replace and for some people are hard to live without.  I had eye surgery and don't need them, but remember when I did.

I made it back home before dark and am enjoying some buffalo chicken pizza as I continue to bask in some amazing positive energy.  Thank you, creator, and the positive spirits above and amazing energy from my friends.  I hope you can all see my smile from here and feel my energy.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Does Size Matter?

Last night, David and I had another couple over for dinner.  Being gay men, we are apt to talk about lots of things that might not come up in a normal conversation with my mom.  One of the things that we did talk about was size last night.  It was very clear that size, in some cases, makes things more comfortable, and in others less so.

When I moved to Brooklyn, I gave up my two bedroom two bathroom cottage on the lake.  In downsizing, I got rid of half of my dishes, and much of my furniture.  Last night, I realized just how tiny my apartment is.  I don't really have a living area that is very large.  There is no dining area.  My living room is combined with my kitchen meaning that one wall of my living room has the sink, the stove, and the refrigerator on it.  There really isn't much room for any kind of table.

Still, last night, we figured it out.  We moved the coffee table (which has dishes drying on it on a towel in this photo given that there isn't quite enough room on my counter to dry all of my dishes from the party).  My mom gave me a little sewing table that is two feet by three feet.  I set that up and pulled up stools.  We had to use the floor to put some of the serving dishes.  Cozy it was.  It was also a great deal of fun.  

I've found that most New Yorkers don't cook much.  In fact, many of them use their oven and cabinet for additional storage and eat out 90% of the time.  For me that's:
1.) Not healthy
2.) Expensive
3.) Adventurous in that you get to try lots of good food
4.) Doesn't allow me to flex my creative cooking and enjoy the stress relief that it provides.
5.) Doesn't let me have friends over and break bread with them that I've cooked which is so rewarding.  

David and I figure that in our next apartment, we are going to try to find a space that is at least four feet wider, or has a separate eat in kitchen or dining room.  We can hope.  The apartment search has started and no luck yet.  

On this cold Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Day, I'm going to be cooking again and planning the next time I can invite friends to get cozy with me and break bread together.  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Money just waiting to be picked up

I continue to be amazed daily by the amount of money just sitting on the sidewalk.  This weekend started with bootcamp at the gym (3 pennies on the way).  I left the gym and walked the half mile home, finding another 10 pennies on the way.  Funny, I was worried about the number 13.  Then I walked a little later to the grocery store to pick up coconut oil for my attempt at making my own chapstick.  On the way to the grocery, I found 1 penny.  Coming out the grocery store, I found two more pennies outside the door.

Then I walked to the bank to put my pocket change into the penny counter.  Before I put the money in, I noticed that the person before me left two dimes in the penny counter machine.  After I counted the money, I waited in line to buy a roll of quarters (searching for my nieces quarter books).  On the ground at the bank was a penny.  Then on the way home, I found another two cents.

Considering how much money this city costs, I am grateful for every penny that I find to put in my pocket.  I guess people just don't think about it or realize the worth.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Civil Disobedience or Stupidity

Having worked until late last night, I took the afternoon off today.  On my drive home, traffic was crazy.  Traffic is usually bad as it is, but not nearly this slow.  As I turned the corner on to Fulton Avenue, which is a super busy street, I could see the reason.

There were two dozen or so protesters with signs, megaphones, and posters chanting, "stop the guns, stop the violence."  If you read anything from me before, you know that I believe we have a gun problem.  That problem needs to be fixed for sure.  In the middle of this very busy street at a very dangerous intersection where there are frequently accidents, sat a large man with his legs crossed in front of the 52 bus.  This man was seated in such a way that traffic could not move in either direction on Fulton.  This was my path home and the reason that traffic at 1:00 p.m. on a Friday was backed up for 10 blocks.  Just as I was trying to figure out where to go, the utility vehicle behind me got back-ended by a taxi cab.  The police were so busy trying to politely move the protesters out of the street that they didn't even see or hear this accident.

Fortunately for me, I was able to turn and slowly make my may through the protesters down a side street.  As I did, though, one very exuberant protester felt the need to plaster his poster on  my windshield so that I could experience the fear and anxiety of possibly having a taxi smash into my back bumper too, maybe squashing some protesters in the process.

Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in making your voice heard. I know that their is a problem.  Most of the people living on and around that intersection know that there is a problem.  What good does it do to hold up the general public and risk injury to many of them to shout a message that isn't needed by those people in those place.

Please, if you are going to be someone who protests, do it somewhere where people who can change those things are listening and are affected.  To risk lives of the public in such a stupid way only makes you and your cause look bad.  It made me frustrated, angry, and sad about gun violence, but more so with those protesters.

Talk to your politicians, work with your local police, educate your children, and protest if you must, but protesting stupidly is almost as bad as our gun laws today - neither is effective.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Dropping a penny

Today, so far, has been a three penny day.  I just jogged over to HoWah to grab some dinner.  I had a conference call for work that meant no time to make dinner.  I ordered my food and watched this older couple pay for theirs.  The older gent dropped a penny, saw it drop, looked at it, and then left it there.  That was my third penny today.

When this happens, I'm torn between putting it in my pocket and giving it to the owner of the store.  Today, I pocketed it.  Amazed am I that people care so little for pennies.  I've been picking up one or two a day (and a quarter yesterday) off the ground.

I've been trying to get back to the gym.  I've been four days in a row.  I'm not nearly in the shape I was a year ago at this time, but I feel like I can get there.  I feel like as long as I can get there and get changed, I'll make it.  I try to spend an hour there between weight lifting and cardio.

I've been blessed to see so many of my friends approaching 40 like me and getting back in shape.  I also see some younger friends still in shape.  My David has asked that we both work toward our best bodies ever for the wedding.  He's definitely great motivation.

Also, this year, I am trying to learn as much about money and investing as I can.  Every other book I read is fiction, and opposites will be about investing or money management.  I've already finished two books and am almost through a third.  Maybe by the end of the year, I'll know the secret to becoming wealthier.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Riding the bus to get a taste of Brooklyn

In this cold snap, I've been riding the bus to work.  When it gets cold, or is raining hard, the bus gets packed with people.  Like a subway car, the buses have seats along the sides and have poles along the middle to hold onto as you ride.  Also, the drivers are similar to subways.  Some of the drivers are awesome, clearly announcing the the stop you are at and the stop you are going to next.  They take off and stop appropriately.  Then there are the drivers that choose to not announce at all or mumble things.  There are drivers that slam on the gas pedal and the brakes throughout the journey.  This, of course, makes it easier to get to know your neighbors who you bump into quite frequently as someone standing.

If you want to get a sense of who the real people of Brooklyn are, you need only to ride the bus and listen.  The wealthy don't ride the bus.  Also, the poorest people can't really ride the bus.  Only those people who have some money ride the bus.  People from all different ethnicities ride the bus.  Polite people give up their seats to the elderly or those with children.  Not many people are polite in this city, though, I've found.  Sometimes you do see great people doing good things.

This morning, I made the mistake of not looking before I sat and sat in some viscous liquid. Fortunately, it only got on my trench coat.  I tried to wipe it off with my handkerchief.  It didn't smell like anything and at least it wasn't urine.

There are plenty of kids who ride the bus to school, parents riding the bus to work, and folks who ride the bus with me are sometimes on their way to the hospital.  Today's ride was particularly packed.  I think that the driver got some sadistic pleasure out of watching everyone fall into each other each time he slammed on the brakes.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Death by jump rope

Like many people, I have vowed to get back to the gym this year.  I want to feel better about my body.  I also have a few races and a wedding that would all be happier if I was in a bit better shape.  I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. this morning instead of 7:00.

I woke up, pulled on my gym clothes, pulled on my dress clothes over top, and walked the frigid half mile to the gym.  The entire walk, I kept thinking about if I would have time to run back home and get a warm hat and maybe gloves to take to work.  It was that cold this morning.  This is a surprise given how much warmer it has been.

As I got to the gym, I looked first for a class to take.  I've always loved classes.  Gary's boot camp at this YMCA started at 6:30.  I had time to get there.  Now I've been to Gary's boot camp before.  It usually leaves me spent for three days.  I knew that I had a workout ahead of me like one I hadn't seen in months.  I grabbed the yoga ball and mat and walked into the workout room.  It was there that I met my nemesis.  Gary handed me a bright yellow jump rope.  I found my spot in the corner. He asked us to put our ball and mat against the wall and get ready to jump rope.

I don't know how many of you have ever seen a five year old trying to jump rope.  I had this pleasure when I gave jump ropes to my nephews and niece at Thanksgiving.  They are ages 3,5,6, and 7 (I think that's right).  The oldest one, my niece, figured it out.  The next in line had some trouble, but he got it eventually.  The little guy just wrapped it around his feet and giggled (maybe that's what I should have done this morning).  Instead, I looked much like my 5 year old nephew, except I'm 39 years old.  Now, I do know the concept of jumping rope.  I'm sure that at some point in my life, I could do it well...hell, who am I kidding, I never have been able to jump rope well.

Gary told us to remember to flex our wrists and to try to cross the rope for a better challenge.  Being adventurous, I started.  The entire rest of the class was jumping a steady jump, very fast and crossing, with some of them hopping on one foot then the other.

Me, I kept miss-timing the jump and smacking my shins with the rope.  Then I'd jump and get so excited that I made it over that I wouldn't whip it around high enough and smack my neck on the backside.  Then I'd start again at the bottom and get a few jumps in.  One foot must surely be slower or more lazy then the other, though, because every second or third jump, I'd end up with the rope caught between my two legs and almost castrate myself.

I didn't realize, until today, that there were so many ways to hurt yourself with a jump rope. 

Six one minute jump rope sessions later, I finally was able to jump over about 30% of the time and stop every three jumps, instead of not getting any exercise.  Just as I got it right, we switched to abdominal exercises.  These I can do.  That was just the warm up.  Then we headed to the gym to do wind sprints.  I thought I was going to make it through the 45 minute class, but after 5 wind sprints, I decided to go downstairs and walk on the treadmill and lift weights on my own.  I did it.  I didn't die.  I'm back at the gym.  I just have to start jumping rope more often.  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Forgot what a hangover felt like

I went to a wedding on January first for a dear friend and fraternity brother of mine.  It was at the Olde Mill Inn.  The place was really adorable and the staff was great.  It was David's first American wedding.  We were surrounded by some of my best friends from college.  We got some time together and talked through the wedding plans.  Now I have some direction.  The food was so delicious and copious, as was the booze, that I just let go and enjoyed it.

I didn't get drunk that evening.  I just managed to drink my way through the cocktail hour and the dinner and the dancing.  David and I retired early after the Hartwick College photo.  I didn't realize until the next day that I over drank. I woke up with a headache, bright light aversion, and an upset stomach.

David and I went to shopping mall that we had seen on the way to pick up some things.  I have not been in a mall like this in my life.  We walked through Neiman Marcus to start and the mall had every other expensive store I've never seen in a mall (Nordstrom, Prada, Cartier, Bloomingdales, Louis Vuitton, etc.).  It wasn't the place for us to shop, especially not with a hangover.  The only close to affordable store was Macys.  We picked up some things there and then went to Marshalls and Burlington Coat Factory.  Both were much more in my price range.  Then we chowed down on french fries, milk shakes, and a burger at 5Guys.  Then, I realized that I was hungover.  Greasy food somehow makes it better.  David realized the same thing.  It has been so long, that I've forgotten what a hangover is and feels like.

For 2016, I'm hoping that one of the things that won't happen again is getting a hangover.


Only in NYC

Times square on December 30.  Trust me, you want to avoid it that entire week.  David and I got tickets to see Dames at Sea through a local discount service.  The challenge being that you had to pick them up in Times Square.  I feel like the entire week before Christmas through New Years Day has more people in Times Square than live in the county where I grew up.  You can't make it five feet in 15 minutes without shoving your way through.  With technology, so many people are looking at their phones and not paying attention.  To add to that, you have three huge stages set up for New Year's Eve with all three simultaneously doing sound checks at top volume, and all of the trashcans are sealed shut to avoid bombs.  That means that on top of trying to push your way politely through the crown, avoid getting hit by cars, you also have to watch where you are stepping with garbage all over the street.

Dames at Sea is a cute show.  It's a spoof of musicals from the early 1930s.  They act, sing, and dance over the top, and the story line was easy to follow.  I wanted us to have drinks, so I got two cocktails and a bag of peanut M&Ms.  I forget that they charge that much more in the theater.  $42 later, and we had two weak drinks with our M&Ms.  We did have fun though, except for the person who was sitting very close to us who kept emitting noxious gases.  Fortunately, I had some strong flavored chewing gum to offset that cost.  Everybody farts, but a half dozen times each half of a musical where you are confined?

The subway home proved to be challenging for me, but entertaining for David.  Some young lady with a very thick Queens accent was being very loud.  One drunk man who was drinking beer on teh subway told her to shut up.  They kept arguing.  She was trying to get him to do something that she could put on some reality website.  He did end up stripping, but fortunately stopped before taking off his pants.  He had a very thick accent and was yelling back and forth with her about sex and swearing while dancing around a pole in the middle of the subway car.  He was a 60 year old latino man with a thick spanish accent, but she kept calling him a leprechaun.  It was like watching a train wreck or accident.  I just wanted to switch cars and ride in peace, but most of the people were enjoying watching the verbal battle.  When stuff like this happens, I feel like there must be some hidden camera nearby, but no, it's just New York City.